Whether you’re looking to take a crash course in Hungarian fine art, immerse yourself in 20th-century history or discover the city’s offbeat side, the best museums in Budapest have plenty to keep any cultured traveler busy.
Museum of Fine Arts
Best museum for Old Masters
Set in a museum resembling a neoclassical temple, Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts is where you’ll find works by world-famous artists like Raphael, El Greco and Dürer, as well as an impressive collection of ancient Egyptian and Greek artifacts. The museum’s highlight is the Romanesque Hall, a frescoed space inspired by medieval Hungarian art. Constructed in the early 1900s, the gallery suffered severe damage during World War II – and in 2018, was restored and opened to the public for the first time in 70 years.
Hungarian National Gallery
Best museum for Hungarian art
Located in the Royal Palace at Buda Castle, the Hungarian National Gallery charts the history of Hungarian art, from medieval Gothic triptychs and sculpture to post–World War II abstraction. Museum highlights include the lookout platform from castle dome, the paintings of Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka, and the work of Hungarian impressionists such as Pál Szinyei Merse, József Rippl-Rónai and János Vaszary.
Hungarian National Museum
Best museum for history buffs
The Hungarian National Museum is the country’s largest. Exhibits here take visitors through the story of Hungary from prehistory to the Communist era. Don’t miss the Roman lapidarium, the stunning Seuso Treasure (a collection of 4th-century silver vessels), the collection of Scythian gold, the 11th-century coronation mantle of St. Stephen and even a giant hand taken from a statue of Stalin.
Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art
Best museum to discover new artists
The Ludwig is where to visit if you’re looking for new and now art from Central Europe and beyond. The gallery mounts ongoing, rotating exhibitions that feature up-and-coming artists from the region, a lively counterpart to the stellar permanent collection. This museum is especially famous for its collection of Pop Art, and you’ll find works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and other well-known makers on display.
House of Terror
Best museum for difficult history
Located in the former headquarters of Hungary’s secret police, this memorably named museum opened in 2002 to commemorate the victims of the Communist and fascist regimes. It’s an immersive experience with multimedia and interactive installations over multiple floors; you'll see the cells where political prisoners were held, and you can watch video accounts from survivors telling their stories. Installations represent different themes, such as a room filled with blocks of lard to represent the forced handover of agricultural produce under the Communist regime.
Best museum for connecting with the ancient past
Head to suburban Óbuda to explore the site of the ancient Roman city of Aquincum. Today, it’s an archaeological park where you can stroll among the ruins of houses, shops, bathhouses and the forum. An impressive museum is housed in a former electric transformer building, with exhibits explaining Roman life in Hungary through displays of mosaics, jewelry, everyday items and even a portable organ dating back to the 3rd century.
Budapest History Museum in Buda Castle
Best museum for medieval history
Housed in the south wing of Buda Castle, this branch of the Budapest History Museum chronicles the history of this storied city. You’ll find dioramas featuring Celts and Romans, while stunning Gothic sculptures bring the story of the Middle Ages to life. You can also walk through the older parts of the castle and visit the recently renovated St. Stephen’s Hall, a jewel box of a room commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph in the late 19th century that showcases the best of Hungarian applied arts.
Holocaust Memorial Center
Best museum for bearing witness
The poignant Holocaust Memorial Center delves into how this calamity affected – and changed – Hungary. The immersive, visceral collection mixes personal artifacts and films with graphic depictions of life in the concentration camps. The experience ends in a beautiful former synagogue.
Best museum for local color
Kiscelli Museum is a charming and curious museum located in a former 18th-century monastery in the Óbuda neighborhood. The setting alone merits a visit, while the galleries showcase an interesting array of everyday items from the 18th and 19th centuries, including antique furniture, vintage pharmacy equipment and retro shop signs.
Hospital in the Rock
Best museum for considering the Cold War
This subterranean hospital below the Castle District functioned during World War II and the 1956 Revolution before being turned into a nuclear bunker in the 1960s during the Cold War. The Hospital in the Rock was top secret and classified until the early 2000s before opening as a museum in 2008. Visitors get to see the hospital as it would have looked (albeit somewhat sanitized), with reconstructed operation rooms complete with waxwork figures and radiation-decontamination rooms.
Hungarian Agriculture Museum
Best museum for castle aficionados
The unusual Hungarian Agriculture Museum in City Park certainly covers its remit, with exhibits on equipment used for livestock breeding in the 15th century, hunting paraphernalia and more, plus an impressive collection of taxidermy. It’s the site that sets this small museum apart, though: Vajdahunyad Castle, a 19th-century replica of a Transylvanian monument that just oozes Central European character.
Zwack Unicum Museum
Best museum for a nightcap
At the original Zwack Unicum Museum, you’ll learn all about the famous Hungarian spirit Unicum, a bitter herbal digestif that people either love or hate. Take a tour of the cellars and try a taste of Unicum right from the barrel as you learn about the history of the brand the Zwack family developed, and how it ties in with Hungarian history. The museum also houses one of the largest miniature bottle collections in the world.
Róth Miksa Museum
Best museum for gorgeous glass
Miksa Róth’s Art Nouveau stained-glass masterpieces can be found all over Budapest, from the Hungarian Parliament to the Four Seasons hotel. Set in Róth’s former home and workshop, this little museum captures both his home life and his artistic life, with well-preserved apartment rooms plus a collection of his work.
House of Hungarian Photographers
Best museum for shutterbugs
Set inside a beautiful house clad in frescoes and ceramics is the House of Hungarian Photographers. Once the former home of Mai Manó, a royal court photographer in the 19th century, this museum is dedicated to photography past and present. Visitors can take in Manó’s preserved photo studio as well as exhibitions of work by Hungarian and international photographers.
Budapest Pinball Museum
Best museum for families
The quirky Budapest Pinball Museum has a cult following as Europe’s largest interactive museum dedicated to pinball machines. But this museum is more than just a collection of vintage equipment (there are over 100 sets): It’s a place where you can go in and play them. Incredibly, some of the games here date back to the 19th century, with bagatelles from the 1880s, and a 1940s Humpty Dumpty–inspired game.
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